Ditch the Flowery Writing During Your Action Scenes

Writers, here’s a useful piece of advice: ditch the flowery writing during your action scenes. This ties in with a note I give frequently, which is that good writing is about the balance of action and information. I’m also always telling writers about mimetic writing. The other day, with an editorial client, I thought of a great image that helped them conceptualize these ideas in a way that made sense.

flowery writing, self indulgent writing
If your protagonist is running from a flesh-eating monster, don’t bog down the action with a detailed description of the night sky.

The Example

Let’s say that we have a getaway car. It’s assumed that it will be used in a chase sequence, which is primarily action. Per the idea of mimetic writing, the narrative style of this passage should be quick and to the point, since we’re dealing with a scene that’s meant to move quickly.

In Action Scenes, Flowery Writing Slows the Pace

Now think about a camera taking a picture of the getaway car in order to convey what it looks like to the reader. This camera can take amazing high resolution images, or it can take grainy “potato quality” shots like you’d find coming from a middle-of-the-line cell phone. In this case, a many-megabyte high resolution picture of the getaway car might be beautiful, but if we try to work with that picture or send it to someone (the reader), it’s going to be a huge attachment, it’ll take time to upload, and it’ll clog up their email bandwidth. (Unless they have fiber, in which case this analogy is useless!) The high res image — flowery writing — is unnecessary, so it comes across as self indulgent rather than a useful tool to advance the plot.

Sometimes Quick and Dirty Does the Trick

For the chase sequence, then, we’d be fine with a quick, grainy snapshot of the getaway car so that we can get on with the action and not get bogged down with information. Here the balance swings to action rather than information. If we’re establishing a very important setting, then the beautiful high res image — flowery writing — is very appropriate, and the balance swings to information. The reader wants to know the delicate details, and you can dwell on them more, taking your time. It doesn’t come across as self indulgent writing when the pace is more relaxed. (That doesn’t mean you can lapse in purple prose, though!)

I hope this short but effective reminder helps you ditch the unnecessary flowery writing as you start a new year of writing!

Are you worried that your manuscript is bogged down with flowery writing? Hire my fiction editing services and I’ll help you weed out what’s unnecessary.

4 Replies to “Ditch the Flowery Writing During Your Action Scenes”

  1. I also like to put myself in the character’s shoes – what would I notice if I were in their place? It’s easy to see what’s acceptable ie, what details if any would be noticed, in each scene.

    Lovely post 🙂

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